Freshwater Fisheries in Canada: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Resources and Their Management

Chapter 14: Harvest and Bycatch Potential in Ontario’s Commercial Live Bait Fishery

D. Andrew R. Drake and Nicholas E. Mandrak


Canada has a wealth of fishery resources whose ecological and economic value are highly regarded across the globe. In fact, Canada’s reputation for plentiful marine resources and the prospect of harvesting fishes for food were strong motivation for early European settlement. As demand for fishes increased, changes in stock abundance and early concerns about sustainability eventually led to the development of formal fishery science and management, which continue to play a major role in the way commercial species and their fisheries are managed (see Ricker 1975; Walters 1986; Myers et al. 1995). Given the history of marine fisheries in Canada, the ecological and economic value of freshwater commercial fisheries is often overlooked, yet roughly 0.6 kg of freshwater fishes per Canadian resident were landed for commercial purposes in 2019 (23,768 metric tons; DFO 2022; Can$68 million in landed economic value1). Given the scale of harvest and potential ecological consequences of overexploitation, management of freshwater fisheries draws on many principles developed in marine systems. In this chapter, we review the historical and present-day exploitation of live baitfishes in Ontario, focusing on changing harvest patterns, unique bycatch problems stemming from the live-capture fishery, and tools that may help minimize the ecological consequences of bycatch within the Ontario fishery.